Chinese State-Run Media Calls for End to Prohibition on Condom Advertising
Several state-run media outlets in China have called on the government to lift its 12-year-old ban on condom advertising, saying that the lack of promotion has made producers "unable to gain enough profit to invest in producing quality condoms," Kyodo News reports. Condoms were first advertised in China in 1988 by Jissbon, "one of the world's largest producers of reproductive ... products," in bus stations, but those ads were halted the next year due to State Administration for Industry and Commerce regulations against advertising "any products meant to cure sexual dysfunction or help improve people's sex lives." China has about 300 condom manufacturers, which are capable of producing about 3.1 billion condoms per year. However, due to a lack of demand, only about 2.2 billion condoms, which are either distributed for free to married couples or sold in pharmacies, supermarkets and other stores, are produced. Science and Technology Daily, a Beijing-based newspaper, said that if Chinese condom producers were allowed to develop brand-name products and advertise, condom demand, production and quality would rise. A recent survey by the State General Administration of Quality Supervision and Quarantine found that only 70% of Chinese-made contraceptives were "quality products."
Condom promotion and quality are considered important in light of the recent increase in HIV and other STDs. According to Kyodo News, more than 600,000 Chinese are estimated to have HIV and more than 10 million could have the virus within the next decade if greater prevention efforts are not made. Kyodo News reports that the Chinese public does not know much about HIV/AIDS, and the media organizations calling on the government to rescind the advertising ban say that "ignorance ... could be overcome if condoms and their correct use could be promoted in an open way." Condoms have traditionally been used by married couples to prevent pregnancy as part of China's one-child-only family planning policy. However, more Chinese are engaging in premarital sex and the incidence of STDs is rising at an annual rate of 20% to 30%. Allowing condom promotion "does not mean we should give less attention to moral education," Fan Minsheng of the Shanghai College of Traditional Chinese Medicine said. Emphasis should be placed on traditional sexual morality, birth control and the prevention of STDs, he said, adding that the ban on advertising "blocks" a "vital channel" of sexual health information. Wang Xuehai, general manager for Jissbon, agreed, calling advertising "not the goal, but a method," and adding that ads "promote not only sales of products, but also advancement of society."
Impetus for Change
China's recent entry into the World Trade Organization may help end the ban, Kyodo News reports. The paper reports that "not a single domestic" condom manufacturer could compete against higher-quality foreign-made products if they were to be introduced into the Chinese market, "especially if they could be freely advertised." Opponents of the advertising ban hope that the threat of such competition and the fact that the United Nations Population Fund recently accepted condoms made by China's Guilin Latex Plant for donation to developing countries will encourage the government to reconsider its position on condom advertising (Murray, Kyodo News, 1/4).